1. Find local eventsEvery week, thousands of meetups, workshops and panel discussions are organised for entrepreneurs to help inform them on topical issues in their industry, give advice on how to run a business or simply provide a space for business owners to meet each other.
Take Yena, an entrepreneurs’ network. It hosts events in cities across the UK to give its members the opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate. It was set up by entrepreneur Ash Philips, 29. When he started his first business in 2009, he was just 19 and he found that very few of his friends understood what he did for a living. He met up with six fellow entrepreneurs for a pint in a pub in Bristol and recognised the power of having a network of people who have also started a business.
In 2016, he founded Yena to make it easier for entrepreneurs start and grow their business through networking. Yena membership costs £9 a month: “It’s super accessible and solves the gap between free government support and expensive, exclusive networks,” Ash says. The Yena community now numbers close to 4,000 with nearly 10% of participants opting for paid membership.
Websites such as Eventbrite and Meetup enable you to search by city or by event type to help you find free or ticketed events in your area. You can also set up email notifications for your search so that you’re kept in the loop.
2. Look into co-working spaceFor some business owners, co-working space is a worthwhile investment, especially as it can often come with a built-in network of fellow entrepreneurs. While such premises can be expensive, several co-working companies run programmes or competitions for entrepreneurs and offer free workspace as the prize. Some of these spaces can also end up doubling as storage space for your product, thereby saving you money on what you would have spent paying for storage.
Ollie Edwards, 36, was awarded one of six places on the programme organised by Origin Workspace in Bristol. As part of the programme, he has a year’s worth of free co-working space at Origin Workspace and weekly mentoring sessions.
He launched his business Epic Breakfast with their help last Summer. The business is a delivery service for breakfast boxes filled with the ingredients for a full English breakfast. “I felt confident that Origin would help me get the business off the ground,” he says. “Support is vital.” Within Ollie’s co-working space, everyone has different areas of expertise and he finds that he learns a lot from speaking to those around him.
3. Join online groupsSocial media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter enable business owners to get in touch with potential partners, mentors or fellow business owners who might be able to answer their questions. Posts can include anything from how to strategically market a product online to the best accounting software to use or how to boost publicity for local meetups or networking events.
The Facebook group Small Business Connections is an online community where almost 5,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners share ideas and collaborate. New members can introduce themselves in their first post and then share or ask for advice in subsequent messages. Each day is themed. On Tech Tuesday, for example, members are encouraged to tell the group about the digital tools they’re using and how it helps them.
The digital tools built in to Starling Bank’s mobile business account have been designed to help small businesses manage their money. Smart money management features include a monthly breakdown of spend into categories such as Travel or Expenses and real-time notifications whenever money moves in or out of the business account. Accounts can also be integrated with accounting software platforms. There are no monthly fees and the account can be opened in minutes.
Both Ash and Ollie are Starling Bank business customers and have found that it saves them time and money and eases the stress of business banking. “The Starling business account does everything I want it to do easily and without any fuss,” says Ollie. Find out more about Starling Bank at www.starlingbank.com.